The Plasma Physics and Fusion research activities carried out at the York Plasma Institute fall primarily into three main areas:
In magnetic confinement fusion, hydrogen gas is heated to a temperature ten times hotter than the centre of the Sun, becoming a plasma. The plasma is confined in a toroidal geometry by a combination of magnetic fields within a fusion reactor known as a tokamak.
High powered lasers focussed onto a solid (or gaseous) target are used to produce plasmas. These rapidly expanding plasmas produce interesting high density states of matter. These high density plasmas can be used to simulate astrophysical plasma expansion and to understand other plasma properties.
Fusion research is undertaken with a view to understanding the basic plasma physics processes in tokamaks to help reduce uncertainties in the performance of future tokamaks (ITER, in particular). There is a close collaboration with the Culham Science Centre, home of the JET and MAST-U tokamaks, which provides access to world-leading experimental tokamak facilities and additional expertise for our postgraduate students. We also have a linear magnetic confinement plasma device at the York Plasma Institute laboratories.
Laser plasma experiments are usually carried out at the Central Laser Facility, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Orion at AWE or at large European laser laboratories. A small in-house nanosecond laser in the York Plasma Institute laboratories is used to produce plasmas for testing diagnostics prior to experiments on larger facilities.
The York Plasma Institute laboratories house a broad range of low-temperature plasma experiments. These include laboratories for atmospheric plasma jets, microplasmas, low-pressure plasma, laser spectroscopy and plasma etching. The emphasis is on 1) characterising and understanding the plasma properties, and 2) working with industry to improve existing technological applications of low-temperature plasmas and development of new ones.
Theory and computational modelling is an important part of all of our research areas. We have extensive expertise in both analytical and computational modelling. The York Plasma Institute has a range of computational facilities, including a Beowulf cluster. We employ large, national computer facilities, such as Archer and HPC-FF.